Just as energy drink backlash prepares to reach its tipping point, a new kind of herbal beverage is proliferating: Relaxation drinks. Like many energy drinks, these relaxation beverages are an alchemy of vitamins, hormones and botanicals that promise drinkers natural assistance in reaching an intended state—in this case, winding down and feeling less stressed.
You’ve likely seen relaxation drinks and “shots” at convenience store counters and airport newsstands. They advertise ingredients such as melatonin (a hormone that helps regulate your sleep cycle), L-Theanine (an amino acid that produces relaxing alpha waves in the brain), GABA (a neurotransmitter that may relieve anxiety) and kava (an herbal sleep aid with a long history). But are they safe?
A May 2013 analysis in Consumer Reports “found little evidence that (relaxation drinks) have been associated with harmful reactions.” And a spokesman for the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration said relaxation drinks “do not contribute to emergency-department visits.”
“Although moderate consumption of these beverages by healthy individuals is likely safe, an objective reduction in stress is improbable and associated adverse effects are possible,” cautioned Sylvie Stacy, who reviewed the safety and efficacy of relaxation drink ingredients in a 2011 study.
While I wouldn’t recommend making a regular habit of drinking these, but they seem safe enough for occasional use. Though you may be better off saving yourself the $3 with some brands—an ABC News investigation found very little of the alleged active ingredients in brands such as MiniChill, RelaxZen and Dream Water.
If you do decide to give relaxation drinks a try, here are a few brands to look into:
Solixir’s Relax: Solixir’s Relax is made with natural, plant-based ingredients and has just 50 calories. It contains botanicals like chamomile, passionflower herb, lemon balm, jujube berry and hibiscus flower and no added sugars. You can find it at Whole Foods and Vitamin Shoppes.
Zenify: Zenify contains a “zen blend” of the amino acids L-Theanine (350 mg), GABA (350 mg) and Glycine (250 mg), along with folic acid, vitamin C and niacin. One bottle has just 50 calories and 13 grams of sugar.
Blue Cow: Blue Cow contains zero sugar, zero calories, zero caffeine and zero sodium. What it does contain is L-theanine), GABA, chamomile, hawthorne Berry, lemon Balm and natural sweetener Rebiana.
And a few relaxation drinks to stay away from:
Koma Unwind: Koma is made with Valerian root, rose-hip, milk thistle and melotonin, though it doesn’t say how much of each ingredient is present. It also contains high-fructose corn syrup, preservatives and artificial colors and flavoring!
Marley’s Mellow Mood: Bob Marley branded relaxation drinks! I was game—until I saw that each can contains 115 calories and 29 grams of sugar.
Red Rain Relaxation Shot: This relaxation shot contains chamomile and valerian extract, along with 3 grams of Melotonin, sugar, artificial flavor and artificial colors.
Photo: Solixer on Facebook